1935 ~ 2020
Date of Death: July 21, 2020
In profound sadness, the staff of Veasley Funeral Home & Cremations, Inc. want to express our sincere condolences to the Baker family. Bettye’s earthly temple is now resting in the care of Rowell-Parish Mortuary. Revelations 21:4 says "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death; nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away." Be assured that in the days ahead you will surely gain strength from the memories of Mother Bettye C. Baker.
Derrick Veasley ~ Director
Henry Veasley ~ Director
Pastor E.C. Maltbia ~ Chaplain
Mrs. Bettye Clara Johnson Baker was the first of two children born to the late John and Jessie Bell (Biddix) Johnson on Thursday, September 26, 1935, in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Her only sibling, John Lincoln Johnson, also preceded her in death.
Bettye attended St. John’s Catholic School, Howard Elementary, and Lincoln High School. As a Lincoln Pirate, she was active in the band, where she played saxophone and piano, ballroom dance, FHA, and drama club. After high school, she attended Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Bettye worked as a substitute teacher in the Fort Smith, Gray Rock, and Spiro, Oklahoma Public School districts. She also continued her love of books within the Fort Smith Public Library system as head of the children’s department of both the Lincoln High and Midland Branches. She was employed for over 20 years at St. John’s Head Start. Her most recent activities were at her beloved Howard Elementary School as a mentor. She is still fondly remembered and loved by former students.
At an early age, Bettye Clara accepted Christ into her life and was baptized by Rev. W. E. Walton at First Baptist Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Smith. Even in her youth, her musical talents were noticed, and she played the first organ purchased by First Baptist. In addition to playing piano and organ for First Baptist, she also was a musician for several other churches in the city, as well as Antioch District and State Congress. She was President of the Sunshine Band, Junior Matrons, and the Board of Christian Education. She taught in the Sunday School, New Members Class, and worked as a Sunday School Superintendent. Over the years, she was asked to be a keynote speaker or panelist at many programs and events on the local, district, state, and national level, even at the National Baptist Convention. In Antioch District Regular, she served as the Executive Secretary and a member of the Time and Place Committee and continued to take classes to further her Christian Education.
Bettye’s community outreach activities were varied and included board memberships for Project Compassion, the Margie K. Harrison YWCA, Interfaith Preschool, and the Fort Smith Public Library Board of Trustees. She was the President of Haley Chism VFW Auxiliary, the district secretary of the VFW auxiliary, and the Arkansas state pianist of the VFW women’s auxiliary. She served as President of the Elizabeth Vivian Conwell Club, and previous federated clubs of the Northwest Region of Arkansas Association of Women’s Clubs. Mrs. Baker also help to usher Girl Scouts into the black community of Fort Smith.
Bettye leaves to cherish her memory her husband of over 60 years, Chester A. Baker; her daughter Tiffinee C. Baker both of Fort Smith, Arkansas; a nephew, Mr. Brian H. Johnson of Anchorage, Alaska; a special cousin, Ms. Rosa L. Hawkins of Los Angeles, California, a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends.
Public walk through visitation will be on Monday, July 27, 2020 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Rowell-Parish Mortuary.